President Joaquim Chissano has suggested a debt-for-nature swap under which Africa's foreign debt would be converted into special funds to be allocated to nature conservation programmes, including coastal areas.
President Chissano was speaking on 23 January during the opening of a three day conference in Maputo of African Environment Ministers, part of the "Pan African Conference on the Integrated and Sustainable Management of the African Coast".
"We suggest that the debt of this region's states be converted into funds to be applied in programmes of nature conservation", said the President, explaining that this would increase the resources available to African countries.
The difficulty in solving African coastal and other environmental problems, such as erosion, which has affected all areas along oceans and rivers, is closely related to lack of funds in the concerned countries.
Chissano added that "given the close links between the conservation of natural resources and the macro-economic situation in our countries, it is important to find more innovative and practical ways to ensure that the exploitation of coastal resources does not have negative and irreversible impacts on the environment".
Chissano expressed the Mozambican government's concern over the vulnerability of the country's 2,500 kilometres coastline. The country's coastal waters were victim to maritime accidents, pollution, and illegal fishing, often practised by foreign ships, equipped with internationally forbidden fishing systems.
He said that to solve these and other problems, the Mozambican government has started drafting an integrated coastal management programme.
He explained that such a programme will allow a common vision between all those who take part in decision making, including politicians, scientists, local communities, the private sector and others.
The Finnish Environment Minister, Pekka Haavisto urged the developed countries to lend support to solve environmental problems in Africa.
Finland is funding the meeting, which was organised by the Mozambican government, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Haavisto reiterated that his country is prepared to help the African Continent find mechanisms to overcome environmental problems.
"We must share responsibilities in the management of African coasts and in the conservation of the environment", he said.
He pointed out that the sea is not a dumping place, and that treating it as such will merely jeopardise the oceans' usefulness to the human race.
"The seas always play an important role for societies around the world", said Haavisto, adding that his country did not hesitate when Mozambique requested support for organising this conference, because it acknowledges the need of joint discussions of environmental problems.
He said that the conference, the second of its kind, will define the future of the African environment and the management of the continent's coasts.
The first conference was held in April this year, and the next will be held between November and December, in the South African city of Cape Town.
The Director of Public Works and Housing in the province of Sofala, Joao Godinho, strongly criticised the Italian road works company Astaldi for failing to keep the terms of contracts concerning rehabilitation of roads in the Sofala province.
According to the Beira daily paper "Diario de Mocambique", Godinho warned that there is a risk of communications between the north and the south of the country being cut again this year if the 20 to 30 kilometres track between the Save River and Inchope, is not repaired before the rainy season.
Early this year, Astaldi argued that it could not proceed with the works not only because of the rains, but also because of land mines. Part of the money earmarked for road repair ended up being diverted to mine clearance projects.
Astaldi won the international tender for the rehabilitation of roads, between Save and Inchope, Inchope-Gorongosa, and Inchope-Beira.
So far, the Italian government has invested about $20 million in road repairs and road building in Mozambique.
Mozambique's cereal production is expected to rise by 10 per cent in 1998, according to experts from the United Nations food agencies.
A joint report of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) forecasts "an overall cereal output of 1.69 million metric tonnes". In 1997, cereal production yielded 1.53 million metric tonnes.
Mozambique is expected to have an overall maize surplus of 59,000 tonnes, mainly from the northern region, but still will have to import 67,000 tonnes of rice and 145,000 tonnes of wheat over the coming months, largely through commercial channels.
The report says that the experts attribute the rise in production to an increase of 2.6 per cent in planted area for a total of 3,663,000 ha.
Meanwhile, the report adds that 245,000 flood and drought victims "will need emergency food aid to carry them through until harvest in September" in excess of 9,000 tonnes of maize and 800 tonnes of pulses.
The worst affected areas are the central provinces of Manica, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia, where an estimated 185,000 are said to be destitute, and the remaining 60,000 people from Maputo and Gaza, in the south.
FAO and WFP will work closely with government and NGOs in order to provide food aid to those most severely affected and support community-based-for-work projects, adds the report.
The Mozambican government is soon to hand over the sugar mills in Luabo and Marromeu, in the central provinces of Zambezia and Sofala to the Mauritian consortium "Societe Marromeu", reports the daily paper "Noticias" on 27 July, citing Sofala provincial governor Felisberto Tomas.
This follows a series of negotiations with the Mauritian businessmen, who want to rehabilitate the Sena Sugar Estate's property, which was destroyed during the war of destabilisation.
Tomas pointed out that the reopening of the sugar mills will help in the development of the Sofala and Zambezia provinces, opening new employment opportunities.
"Our government is not indifferent to this initiative. On the contrary, we are encouraging the consortium to realise the idea, because we want to consume our own sugar", said Tomas.
He also announced that as from January 1999 works will be resumed, to complete the rehabilitation of the Sena railway line which links Beira, the capital of Sofala, to the coal mining town of Moatize, in Tete province.
He noted that this work will benefit not only his province, but also the country as a whole and neighbouring countries.
Tomas explained that this undertaking aims to reduce the need to import sugar from South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
"For us to have sugar without problems in Beira and other districts of the province, it is necessary to have a complementary component, which, in this case, is the railway line, for transportation in large quantities", he said.
The Mauritius businessmen intend to also invest in farming. They are committed to produce rice in both Marromeu and Luabo as part of their activities.
President Joaquim Chissano and Malaysian Prime Minister Mohatir Bin Mohamed on 30 July in Maputo inaugurated the International Commercial Bank (ICB), owned by Malaysian interests.
The new bank will start operating in August and, according to its Executive Director, Benedict Goh, "it will provide a wide range of services, including loans to the various sectors of the Mozambican economy, transactions in foreign currency and financing to international trade".
ICB is established in Europe, with branches in Malaysia and Africa.
Malaysia is also the major shareholder in the recently privatised Mozambican Southern Bank, formerly known as the People's Development Bank (BPD).
The Development International Council (CIDEV), a French NGO, has deactivated 2,500 antipersonnel land mines around high voltage pylons which transport electricity from South Africa to the south of the country.
The mines, removed from about 200 pylons, were planted by Mozambican soldiers during the war of destabilisation to prevent Renamo guerrillas from sabotaging the line.
This work, financed by $3 million from the French Cooperation Fund (CFC), started in June, and is expected to be concluded in 11 months. 200 Mozambican sappers and 12 French experts are employed in the project.
The SADC mine clearance experts and officials met in Maputo to draw up an inventory of the existing demining technologies, and to plan for treatment and rehabilitation of the victims of land mines.
Renamo leader, Afonso Dhlakama, has claimed that both he and his party will come out the winners in the general elections in 1999.
Cited in the Portuguese daily "Publico" on 31 July, Dhlakama said that he has managed to harness support in urban areas, and that come 1999 Renamo can on its own collect more than 60 per cent of the vote.
"President Chissano can't mess with me now", he said, stressing that his popularity has increased. "In 1994, almost nobody knew me. They only knew I was a bandit, that I killed. But even then the difference was slight ", added.
However, he suggested that the opposition should join hands so as not to disperse votes. As regards the leaders of the other 15 parties running for presidency, Dhlakama acknowledged that they would not run, "but can pass their votes to the 1994 single candidate".
He also said that should he win, he will reward these leaders by appointing them to ambassadorial or governoral posts.
He reiterated the claim that many civil servants are Renamo cadres. "Frelimo thinks they are its cadres, but they are not", he stressed.
Dhlakama suggested that there is a rift within Frelimo, and that Graca Machel, former Minister of Education and the widow of Mozambique's first President - Samora Machel, could be representing a discontent section.
For Dhlakama, Machel's dissatisfaction "may have something to do with her revelations on the accident that claimed the life of Samora Machel". "She (Graca) knows something and has said that there're Mozambican officials involved", he said, adding that one day she will disclose them.
He said that he could not understand why at the time of Machel's death "there was a lot of investigation, but afterwards everything went quiet. Neither Russian, American, British, or Mozambican said anything", Dhlakama added.
"There's something weird. Perhaps they don't want to shame the Mozambican government", argued Dhlakama, who believes that one day the real circumstances of Samora Machel's death will come to light.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi told reporters on 24 July that funds for the municipal authorities elected on June 30 already exist in this year's state budget.
The 1997 law on local finance establishes a system of budgetary transfers, whereby the central state budget subsidises the local authorities. The main mechanism envisaged is a "Local Authority Compensation Fund", consisting of between 1.5 and three per cent of all tax revenue raised by the central state.
The Prime Minister said the fund would come into operation this year, after the new municipal authorities had been sworn into office.
The government had not yet decided on the breakdown of the fund between the 33 cities and towns that now have municipal governments. One of the main criteria for distribution of the fund stipulated in the law is the performance of the local authorities in raising their own funds through local taxes. The more they raise for themselves, the more they will be entitled to from the Compensation Fund.
But since none of the new local taxes are yet in place, this criteria cannot be applied, and the government will have to be guided mainly by the size and population of the municipalities.
Mocumbi guaranteed that the Compensation Fund meant a substantial increase in central state funding for these 33 municipalities. A town that has now been upgraded to municipal status would receive from the central state as much, or more, than an entire district had received in the past, the Prime Minister said.
He added that, in all but two of the municipalities, premises were now available for the municipal assemblies, and municipal councils.
Mocumbi also announced that the government will now introduce VAT (Value Added Tax) in 1999, and not this year as initially scheduled.
He said measures were under way to prepare the introduction of the new tax, which will replace the current consumption and sales taxes. One of the reasons Planning and Finance Minister Tomas Salomao was currently touring the provinces was to publicise VAT.
Britain has promised to increase its annual assistance to Mozambique, according to British Overseas Development Minister Clare Short, who arrived in Maputo on 22 July for the start of a five day visit.
Decisions on future aid, she added, would be taken based on an assessment of Mozambique's needs, and the possible inclusion of new areas of cooperation. She made it clear that Britain's Labour government is particularly interested in helping Mozambique improve living conditions for the rural population
Currently, British aid to Mozambique is running at an average of $36 million a year. Among the major current areas of British assistance are economic reform (notably by financing the customs reform project), teaching the English language, and rural development in the central province of Zambezia.
On 23 July Minister Short pledged an extra $32 million in budgetary support for Mozambique. Speaking at a Maputo press conference she said the money would go into the Mozambican government's debt relief fund. This is a mechanism whereby donors can pay off part of Mozambique's foreign debt, thus releasing funds from the Mozambican state budget that can be used to build up the country's social services.
Short noted that the write-off of $1.4 billion of Mozambique's debt under the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative, sponsored by the World Bank and the IMF, will not happen until mid-1999. "We want to help in the meantime", she said, "so that Mozambique can redirect its public resources".
The current British aid programme is budgeted at $32 million. Because the British and Mozambican financial years are different, half of the new money will be counted for the Mozambican 1998 financial year and half for the 1999 one. Thus this year's British aid will stand at $48 million.
Short said her visit was in order to review the current cooperation programme, and make decisions for the next three years. "We are looking ahead for three years at what we are trying to achieve and the resources we have", she explained. She was sure that, under this review, the level of British aid would rise still further.
She stressed that the focus of British aid would not be on isolated projects, which might collapse as soon as the funding ended. Instead, Britain wanted to help the Mozambican government build up its institutional capacity over the long term, so that it could deliver universal services to its citizens.
She said she was impressed by the Mozambican government's efforts at poverty alleviation, and "the strategic view" it was taking. She believed that the government was committed "to building an economy that works for poor people".
Minister Short added that she wanted to see more work aimed at raising the income levels of the rural poor. British aid is already involved in this activity in the central province of Zambezia, notably through financing access roads, and training local people how to maintain them, so that they can take their produce to market.
The minister also promised support for Mozambique's educational plans, particularly its teacher training programme. A British team would come out to Maputo shortly "to look at the details".
Short added that British experts would help in plans to halt the spread of the lethal disease AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). So far AIDS levels are lower in Mozambique than in the neighbouring countries, though there are signs of a worrying rise along the main transport routes.
Short said that the British government have not yet discussed what support to give to the Mozambican presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 1999, "but I am sure we will give assistance if requested".
For his part, Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao, who received Short at the airport, said that during her stay, bilateral cooperation would be reviewed, and a document containing the strategy for British aid to Mozambique over the coming years would be discussed.
Trade union research has concluded that over 100,000 workers countrywide have been made redundant by the privatisation process during the last 10 years.
The claim is made in a report to the Mozambican Trade Union Federation (OTM-CS)'s Executive Committee, which was presented on 27 July in Matola.
According to that document, 840 of the 1,240 state-owned companies were privatised during the ten years of structural adjustment. The report says that more than 250 of the companies were: sold in a critical situation, lacking investment for modernisation; paralysed or semi-paralysed, with back wages owing; not regularly transferring workers' contributions to the National Social Security Institute (INSS) leaving workers in a situation of insecurity.
The document also denounces the lack of control on the part of the government and the privatisation terms. This made way for the transformation of industrial companies into import-export warehouses, or simply into second hand clothing shops. As a result, most workers becoming unemployed.
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